Most people know that pigs are omnivores, and that means they need a variety of both plant and animal matter in their diet. This versatility makes pigs successful, but for keepers, this means they need a diet with all sorts of different food in order to thrive, including meat.
Chicken is a popular meat for feeding to pigs, but how about the bones? Can pigs eat chicken bones?
Yes, pigs can and will eat chicken bones. Pigs are capable of chewing and digesting smaller bones and will derive nutrition from them. You should make it a point to only feed your pigs cooked chicken and bones in order to prevent an outbreak of disease.
This is one of those things that some keepers just don’t think about, and it is a viable option for supplementing the diet of your pigs.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot to consider before doing so, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know about giving chicken bones to your herd.
Can Pigs Eat Bones in General?
Yes, they can. Especially when considering a large and powerful pig, they are well equipped to break, grind and eat bones.
They have powerful jaws and stout, strong teeth, and bones will provide significant nutrition to pigs in the form of calcium, in addition to whatever is in the marrow.
Though it might be gruesome to consider your friendly, pink pig wolfing down some meat with bones and all, they certainly can and will.
Can Pigs Even Digest Bones?
Yes. Pigs are able to produce a protein called pepsin in their stomachs, which breaks down the collagen in bones and makes it digestible.
This is how they are able to utilize all the goodness locked away in chicken bones, getting nutrition from both the marrow and the bone itself.
Do Chicken Bones Cause Diseases in Pigs
Yes, they can, and in particular when fed raw. Raw animal protein, be it flesh, organ or even bone, is likely to contain bacteria or parasites that can cause disease in pigs.
This is one of the big reasons to only ever feed your pigs cooked chicken (and ergo cooked bones), as cooking will kill any harmful pathogens.
Are Chicken Bones Good for Pigs?
Yes, when fed appropriately in limited quantities. Chicken bones are a good source of calcium for pigs, and will help to keep their bones and teeth healthy.
However, too many chicken bones can lead to problems such as constipation or an impacted gut, so it’s important not to overdo it.
Nutritional Benefits of Chicken Bones for Pigs
The nutritional content of bones varies somewhat depending on its size, freshness and type, along with whether or not it has been cooked.
In general, you can count on bones having a good amount of protein, fat, and minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Marrow is also a good source of essential fatty acids.
Calcium is always needed in a pig’s diet and is used to maintain strong bones and teeth, as well as for proper muscle function.
Phosphorus is another mineral that is essential for pigs and works closely with calcium in the body.
It too is important for bone and tooth health, as well as for cell repair and energy metabolism.
Protein is an important macronutrient for all animals, and pigs are no exception. It is used for the growth, repair, and maintenance of all body tissues.
Fat is also an important part of the diet, providing essential fatty acids and energy.
When fed in moderation, chicken bones can be a healthy and nutritious treat for your pigs, providing them with valuable nutrients that they might not otherwise get in their diet.
Can Pigs Eat Raw Chicken and Bones?
Yes, but they should not. Raw chicken and bones can contain bacteria or parasites that can cause disease in pigs.
This is why it is important to only ever feed your pigs cooked chicken (and ergo, cooked bones).
Many such diseases, including salmonella, E. coli, and trichinellosis (a parasitic disease) can create severe health problems in pigs, and some are capable of being transmitted to humans through contact or by eating contaminated pork products.
Can Pigs Eat Cooked Chicken and Bones?
Yes. Consider cooking mandatory if you want to safely serve bones to your pigs.
Cooking will kill any harmful bacteria or parasites that may be present in raw chicken or bones, making them safe for your pigs to eat.
Never Feed Your Pigs Rotten Bones or Bone from a Sick Chicken
You should never feed your pigs bones that are rotten or ones from a sick chicken. Rotten bones can harbor harmful bacteria, and bones from a sick chicken may harbor germs that could likewise harm your pigs.
If you are unsure whether or not a bone is safe for your pigs, err on the side of caution and do not feed it to them.
How Many Chicken Bones Can Pigs Have?
Pigs can have chicken bones as a treat, but it’s important not to overdo it. Too many chicken bones can lead to problems such as constipation or an impacted gut.
A good rule of thumb is to limit chicken bones to no more than 5% of your pig’s diet. In general, you will want to keep the serving sizes small and spread out the days you let your pigs have them so they have time to digest what they can and pass the remnants.
Can Feeding Chicken Bones to Pigs Make them Start Attacking Chickens?
Perhaps. There is some evidence to suggest that, once pigs get a taste of chicken and chicken bones, they may start to see chickens in general as food, or prey, rather.
This might transpire even if they have lived peacefully around the chickens their whole lives prior to the point, and is especially likely if fed raw chicken and chicken bones.
If this happens, you’ll need to keep a closer eye on your pigs and chickens to ensure that they are not harming each other, and definitely keep them in separate pens at all times.
How to Give Chicken Bones to Your Pigs
The first rule is to cook chicken bones thoroughly. This will kill any harmful bacteria or parasites that might be present, and make the bones safe for your pigs to eat.
You can either cook them in a pot on the stove, boiled, or bake them in the oven.
Once they are cooked, you can give the bones to your pigs whole, or chop them up into smaller pieces. You’ll need a cleaver, stout knife or shears for that.
If you have more than one pig, it’s best to give each their own bone so there is no fighting over who gets what.
You can feed chicken bones to your pigs as a treat or supplement every now and then, but don’t overdo it.
Can Baby Pigs Have Chicken Bones, Too?
No, as a rule. Piglets aren’t strong enough or well-developed enough to safely chew and digest bones. They should not be allowed to eat them until they are well into late adolescence.
Frequently Asked Questions
Technically yes, once they are adults, but the bones will need to be very small for mini pigs to handle them without harm.
Yes. Potbelly pigs will eat chicken bones the same as any other pig. This is not advised if the pig in question is a pet.
No, not generally, but there is always a latent risk when any livestock develops a taste for flesh and blood. The greater risk is for any chickens you might have, but I would be extra cautious around pigs who are allowed to eat bones and meat.
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Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.